He has overcome physical setbacks - the kind that bring out the quit in weaker men - to become an Olympic skier.
During the winter of 2002-2003 he went to Europe, into the lion's den, where American skiers are treated the same way we look at baseball players from France: Bemusing novelties who ultimately gain little respect. Boy, did he change those attitudes.
He forced his way on to the world stage with performances rarely seen from Americans. He got his respect, not to mention a legion of fans treating him like a rock star.
>He has become the American skier that will revolutionize the sport in the United States.
Sounds like another Bode Miller intro, doesn't it?
This story, the story of Kris Freeman, might be better.
Kris, 22, is a Type I diabetic who needs insulin injections five times a day. He has become the first diabetic to successfully compete at an international level in an endurance sport like cross country skiing. He was diagnosed in September of 2000, but that didn't stop him from training for the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.
Less than a year later, he had to have surgery for compartment syndrome, which caused abnormal growth of the muscles in his lower legs.
"I had the Olympics in less than a year, so I knew I had to deal with it," Freeman said. "It's a pretty simple procedure, but pretty painful."
Hinckley, whose family lives a mile down the road from the Freeman house, and Van Loan, who is from nearby Webster, made the Nordic combined team. The only person missing was Kris' older brother, Justin, who narrowly missed joining Kris on the cross country team. Kris thinks Justin will be on the team for the 2006 Games in Torino, Italy.
He stunned the cross country world this winter in Italy by winning the Under-23 world championship in February and, a week later, finishing fourth in the 15 kilometer classic ski race at the Nordic World Ski Championships. It was the best finish by a U.S. skier since Vermont native Bill Koch won a bronze medal in the 30K race at the 1982 Worlds.
"I got more press than the winner did, probably twice as much. They were shocked and they were happy, too. They want the U.S. to do well. It was a little overwhelming."
Cross country skiing? That's a couple of guys named Swen stiff-legging their way through the woods in countries that consider New Hampshire winters tropical.
It was during the winters here that Donavon Freeman taught his two sons how to cross country ski. Now, it looks like Kris may be the one to bring the sport a popularity it hasn't had here since the days of Bill Koch more than two decades ago.
"It's a European sport, (and) for now I accept it," Freeman said recently. "One of my goals is to bring it to the masses. If you get an Olympic medal, its going to fire people up and bring interest to the sport."
He needs to look no further than Miller to know the power of an Olympic medal.
"Bode won world championship gold, (but) he also has a silver medal in the Olympics and that's what Americans pay attention to," Freeman said. "Most Americans don't even know there is a world championships. If you come from the U.S. and you want notoriety, you want fame for your sport; you put it together every four years when they put the show on. That's what Bode did."
"I think if I have the same success as him, notoriety will come."
That day may be coming soon. Freeman, who has become a spokesman for Lilly, the pharmaceutical company that developed the type of insulin treatments that allow him to compete, is getting ready to head back to Park City to begin training with the national team.
If he keeps progressing the way he did this winter, he will certainly be among the medal favorites in 2006.
And that's when millions will hear this wonderful story.
|NH Angle >> Human Interest|
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